The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is defending proposals to install coin-operated street lights in every city across England as 'a way to ensure councils spend the money we give them appropriately'.
The plans, outlined in the Localism Bill, will see current sodium bulbs replaced with new LED ones which will be operated by the insertion of a coin or token.
"Every year, the Government give local authorities tens of millions of pounds and every year they complain that they don't have enough. Coin-operated lights are just a small step towards us making sure every penny they get is spent correctly."
"The money will be given just once and recycled, ensuring that it's forever tied to the operation on the lights. Of course, councils could decide to keep the cash and get rid of their street lighting, but they'd risk the wrath of letters to the local paper if they did."
Under the scheme, council workers would visit every light in their authority area once a day, inserting either £5 in coin or tokens to make the lights stay on overnight. Then in daylight hours, the same worker would return to empty the switching box, before coming back just before dusk to re-insert the monies.
"It's a ludicrous scheme" Martin Aniston from the union UNISON said. "At a time when councils are having to cut staff and save money across the board, to get workers to travel around a council area to make sure lights come on is profligate."
However, he said he hoped that if the plans are adopted, those workers who operate the lights would be encouraged to adopt UNISON membership.